This article is from the Bicycles FAQ, by Mike Iglesias with numerous contributions by others.
From: Roger Marquis <email@example.com>
[More up to date copies of Roger's articles can be found at
The following method of setting saddle height is not the only method
around for setting your saddle height but it is the most popular
among experienced coaches and riders in the US and Europe.
1) First adjust the saddle angle. It should be level or very close
to level, with no more than 2mm slope up or down at the nose.
2) Put on the shoes you normally ride in. Don't forget to lightly
grease the seat post and binder bolt. Have a binder bolt wrench
ready (usually a 5mm Allen).
3) Mount the bike and sit comfortably, leaning against a wall.
Apply a brake with one hand (or mount the bike on a turbo trainer).
4) Placing your HEELS on the pedals pedal backwards at 30+ rpm
without rocking your pelvis (very important).
5) Adjust seat height so the gap between pedal and heel at bottom
dead center is:
5A) ZERO TO ONE HALF CM. for recreational riders (-50 mi/wk.),
5B) ONE HALF TO ONE CM. for experienced riders (50+ mi./wk.),
5C) ONE TO ONE AND ONE HALF CM. for endurance cyclists (250+
NOTE: Modify these recommendations if your soles are considerably
thicker at the cleat than at the heel. It can be difficult
to make an accurate measurement without a mirror or friend
to do a visual check of your heel and pedal at BDC. (This is
especially true for Time and Look style cleats).
6) Ride. It may take a couple of rides to get used to the feel and
possibly stretch the hamstrings and Achilles slightly.
Roger Marquis (firstname.lastname@example.org)